The dangers of sports drinks and tooth decay

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Sports drinks are a great source of energy and replace the salts lost through sweating during sports, due to the electrolytes and sugar content. However, the sugar content can become a problem when these drinks are frequently consumed, damaging your tooth enamel and leading to tooth decay.

Research shows that 68% of children between the age of 12-14 in the UK consume sports drinks unnecessarily, failing to burn off the calories and causing them to gain weight. As far as teeth are concerned, many children and adults alike consume sports drinks daily, leaving teeth susceptible to gum disease.

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Tooth decay

Sugar and acids in sports drinks are huge contributors to tooth decay. This occurs when sugar reacts with the bacteria found in plaque. Cavities form when tooth enamel is worn down from these high levels of sugars and acids, forming cavities. Once this happens, tooth decay can escalate, leading to a possible filling or extraction of the tooth.


Treating tooth decay

Your dentist may use fluoride gel, paste or varnish to the decayed area. Fluoride renders your teeth more resilient to the acids that occur from the build-up of plaque. If the decay is severe, you may need a crown or filling which involves removing dental decay and applying local anaesthetic in order to fill the hole. Root canal treatment and extraction are further options for more severely damaged teeth.


Sugar content in sports drinks:

Some of your favourite drinks may surprise you by containing staggering amounts of sugar and amongst these are drinks that exceed the amount the RDA (recommended daily amount) of your sugar!

  • Powerade: 7 teaspoons.
  • Gatorage: 14 teaspoons.
  • Vitamin water: 7 teaspoons.
  • Lucozade: 70 teaspoons per 500ml.
  • Mountain Dew: 65 grams per 500ml.


Added sugar should not contribute to more than 5% of your RDA.


Top tips

  • Be aware of sports drinks that market themselves as ‘healthy’. Be sure to check the label for sugar content, as drinks that are high in sugar should not be consumed on a daily basis.


  • If you are looking for healthier substitutes to sports drinks, why not try milk? High in calcium, milk is a fantastic choice for children, helping their bones grow strong and healthy. Fruit juices can also be a better choice, containing natural sugars, though these should also be enjoyed in moderation.


  • Using fluoride toothpaste is good for strengthening tooth enamel and will reduce your chances of tooth decay if it used hand-in-hand with a healthy dental health routine.